Navigation Jump Links
- Seattle at-a-glance
- What it’s like to live in Seattle
- Economy and job outlook in Seattle
- Real estate, cost of living in Seattle
- The top neighborhoods in Seattle
- How to get around in Seattle
- School and education snapshot
- Weather and climate in Seattle
- 10 can’t-miss things to do in Seattle
Welcome to the Emerald City (no, not Oz). Seattle has long been considered the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest due to its lush scenery and sophisticated urban lifestyles. With nearly 750,000 residents, it is the largest city in Washington and, despite a high cost of living, it’s still growing! Recent census data tagged it as the fastest-growing big city in the U.S.
So, what’s drawing folks to Seattle? It could be the thriving coffee scene, its hip atmosphere or the fact that the minimum wage here is better than that of other states. Or maybe it’s the ability to visit the beach in one direction or snowboard in another. Likely, it’s that Seattle is considered progressive, innovative and environmentally conscious, making it attractive for those seeking a high quality of life.
Ready to pack those boxes? First, check out a few more things to know before moving to Seattle.
A Hub for Lovers of Art, Culture, Music and Sports
Living in Seattle means having immediate access to one of the best art and culture scenes in the world. This is the birthplace of Grunge (or the Seattle Sound), Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Rolling Stone considers the Crocodile to be one of the best clubs in the country for live rock and roll, although you may also enjoy the Showbox.
Beyond rock, the city boasts the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, the Pacific Northwest Ballet and more than 80 theater companies. Its museums, galleries and public installations are renowned, with popular places including the Seattle Art Museum, Frye Art Museum, Museum of Flight and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.
Of course, sports fans will have no shortage of things to enjoy here. Seattle is home to several major league sports teams, including the Mariners (MLB), Seahawks (NFL), Kraken (NHL) and the Seattle Sounders (MLS).
Some Big Employers Make Their Home in Seattle
The Washington job market has, overall, remained resilient following pandemic slowdowns. Some job sectors, such as life sciences, have seen a boost from recent funding, while the city was hit by the waves of tech layoffs seen across the U.S. As these areas stabilize, Seattle’s unemployment rates have gone up and down in 2023. As of May, it was still under the national level at 3.2 percent.
Beyond life sciences and tech, other major industries in Seattle include biotech, aerospace, healthcare, maritime industries and manufacturing.
Nine Fortune 500 companies are in Seattle, with several big names headquartered here, including Amazon and Starbucks. Microsoft and Costco are also headquartered in the Seattle suburbs. Boeing has a major presence in the state and is in competition with Amazon to become Washington’s top employer.
One of the Most Expensive Cities in the U.S.
The Emerald City has a lot of wonderful things to offer, but those things come at a high cost. The cost of living in Seattle is 31 percent higher than the state average and a whopping 50 percent higher than the national average. That higher cost is seen across the board, affecting housing, healthcare, transportation and more.
Thankfully, with the high cost of living comes the high median household income of $105,391, more than 1.5 times the national median. Another great thing? Washington is one of only nine states in the U.S. that don’t levy a state income tax!
This is good news if you’re looking to buy a home, because the Seattle housing market is no joke. Housing here is 111 percent higher than the national average. Homes for sale go off the market fast, with nearly 40 percent receiving offers above the list price and many of those with waived contingencies. In June 2023, the median home sale price was $826,000, a slight year-over-year dip, but with fewer homes on the market you’ll still need to go in with a very competitive mindset.
Although rents in Seattle are not as high as some places in the U.S., they still beat the national average, coming in at about 27 percent higher. The market seems to still be finding itself, with rents down year-over-year, but up month-over-month. As of July 2023, the median rent of a one-bedroom apartment was $1,613, with the median rent for a two-bedroom at $1,949.
Seattle Has Over 100 Unique Neighborhoods
Whether you and your family are looking for a strong community or you’re a young professional who digs the art scene, you’ll find a home here. Check out these highly recommended neighborhoods for those moving to Seattle:
Quiet and charming, Beacon Hill is known for its diverse, socially active residents. Community is strong here, with Jefferson Park being a hot spot for neighborhood meet ups, making it an ideal neighborhood for families.
Gushing bohemian vibes, Fremont is a favorite of young professionals and students who thrive off its artsy energy and events. It’s home to the Fremont Troll, several foodie favorites and the Fremont Solstice Fest.
Just next to Fremont, Ballard is as beloved by the younger crowds but for different reasons. Ballard has great boutiques, craft breweries, restaurants and fun spots for adults and kids alike, such as arcades and board game cafes. Young professionals and families will love it here.
Picturesque Queen Anne is home to some of the city’s best cultural attractions. If you’re looking for larger homes with beautiful architecture and great views of the city, you’ll find them here.
Although Northgate lacks the local feel, its distance from the heart of Seattle makes it a quiet and more affordable place to settle down. There’s plenty of shopping, and the new Kraken training complex opened a public ice rink for those who like to skate.
Other neighborhoods to include in your Seattle home search:
- Green Lake
- Columbia City
- Central District
- Pioneer Square
One of the Country’s Best Public Transportation Systems
Although travel by car is still preferred by some Seattle residents, the city is known to have some serious traffic jams. Thankfully, walking and bicycling are great options, and some will tell you that the city has some of the country’s best public transportation options available.
The City of Seattle itself runs the historic Streetcar System, which provides two lines. The city also works closely with King County Metro, Sound Transit and other agencies to provide excellent bus and rail service in and around the city, making it easy to explore or get to work. The Washington State Ferry also provides easy and affordable access to cities within the Puget Sound and on the Kitsap Peninsula.
Some of the Best Schools in Washington
Nearly 80 percent of K-12 students in Seattle are educated in one of its 190 public schools. This may be due to the city’s public schools receiving an average ranking of 8/10, placing them in the top 30 percent of the state’s schools. Reading and math proficiency scores also beat out the state averages. If you still prefer to look into private schools, Seattle has 124 to check out.
If lifelong learning is important to you, you’ll be pleased to know that Seattle is one of the country’s most educated cities. There are several excellent colleges and universities to choose from, including the University of Washington, University of Puget Sound and Seattle University.
Rainy Days Aren’t So Bad in Seattle
You may be relieved to know that while it’s true that Seattle experiences its fair share of rainy days, the actual amount of rainfall is a lot less than places like New York, Miami and even Houston. So, while you’ll need an umbrella, living in Seattle doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to beach days.
The city is considered temperate, with its wettest months hitting in late-autumn, early-winter. Although snow isn’t as much of an issue as other northern cities, you’re still likely to see at least a few inches each winter. The coldest month is December, with an average low of 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
The summers here are the true standout. Seattle experiences low humidity and summer temperatures tend to keep to the mid-70s, only rarely creeping into the 90s during a heat wave. The warmest month is August, with an average high of 77 degrees.
10 Can’t-Miss Things to Do in Seattle
Seattle isn’t just about coffee, although that’s a big part of the culture here. You’ll also find amazing art galleries, beautiful parks, major sports fans and more. Here’s a list of 10 must-dos in the Emerald City:
- Take advantage of a clear day to ride the Seattle Center Monorail to the Space Needle, where you can climb the 832 open-air stairs to the top (or you can take the elevator).
- Grab a cup of coffee at one of the city’s many, many coffee shops—Seattle is, after all, the coffee capital of the U.S.
- Visit the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) and enjoy exhibits about Nirvana, Pearl Jam, sci-fi and the history of indie video games.
- Be blown away at Chihuly Garden and Glass, a permanent exhibition featuring the vibrant studio glass of Dale Chihuluy.
- Shop, bar hop and dine in Capitol Hill, home to some of Seattle’s cutest shops and best restaurants.
- Wander Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market, featuring hundreds of vendors selling art, flowers, produce and even magic supplies.
- Bird watch, enjoy the sunset over the Olympic Mountains or enjoy a cozy picnic at Discovery Park.
- Rollerblade, bike and kayak at Alki Beach, a favorite for families and individuals.
- Head to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park for interactive exhibits, films and more about Seattle’s Klondike history.
- Ride the Seattle Great Wheel on Pier 57.